Building a Better Filament Extruder

By Mark Dill
CEO of ExtrusionBot, LLC

I was inspired by the challenge of creating a filament extruder when I saw a competition online. It was too late to enter, but I knew I could build a better product. At the time, there were two other filament extruders available, the Filastruder and Filabot, which were both unassembled DIY kits. It took the Filastruder 24 hours to produce a 1 kg spool and the Filabot took 5 hours to produce a 1 kg spool.

The ExtrusionBot
I knew I could engineer a state-of-the-art filament extruder that could ship fully assembled, be easy to use and include a spooling mechanism so that you didn't have to extrude your filament into a tangled mess on the floor. Not only does the ExtrusionBot produce a 1 kg spool in just a little over an hour, it has the smallest footprint on the market and a professional design.

When I developed the ExtrusionBot in 2013, the goal was to create an alternative to high-cost filament and take away the constraint of estimating which and how much filament is needed for a project.

My machine needed to be affordable, easy-to-use at home, give users the flexibility to color filament any way they wanted and have the ability to do "hot swaps" with different nozzle sizes.

With the design, the challenge was essentially taking an injection molding type machine and reducing it down in size by 100 fold. My team and I had to figure out the ideal heat tolerance to heat the pellets while ensuring extrusion speed and keeping the overall cost down to make the unit affordable. Some of the parts needed for the ExtrusionBot either did not exist in volume or were unreliable in the unit, and we did not have the resources to go out and manufacturer parts.

I decided to launch the ExtrusionBot on Kickstarter.com, a crowdsourcing funding platform for projects ranging from technology to the arts. It's a great place to explore and support creative and innovative products. My campaign goal was $10,000, which we planned to use towards refining the unit, and building and maintaining a related website. We had a 30-day campaign and weren't sure what to expect. Within three days we reached our goal and by the end of the campaign we had fundraised a total of $88,745.

The first prototypes of the ExtrusionBot were more basic compared to what we have now because we were able to get more equipment and machinery with the funding from Kickstarter. We use Jameco parts in the unit including discrete components, electrical components, wiring and other parts on the sensor boards. Calculating the ideal heat tolerance while keeping the machine affordable will continue to be a challenge as we bring on new types of materials to use with the ExtrusionBot.

It has been a great journey to be able to imagine something and – in less than a year – see it come to fruition. It makes me realize that there are probably a lot of people out there like me who, given a chance, can make their dreams come true.

If you have an electronics story or project you'd like to share, please email [email protected].


Mark Dill lives in Chandler, AZ and is the founder and CEO of ExtrusionBot, LLC. His interests include spending quality time with his family, robotics and 3D printing. He has been a Jameco customer since the early 1990s.